Thing 1: Read about the 23 Things programme, set up a blog and write a blog post

Welcome to 23 Things for Research. This week we’ll cover Things 1 and 2, which will help you get started with the programme, set up a blog, and share your thoughts and progress. We’ll always post each week’s new Things on Monday morning, so you can schedule them into your work week.

We know that it’s quite an intense programme to get through (especially when you’re trying to do your research as well!), so please feel free to work at your own pace and take longer than scheduled.

Before you get going on a blog, Thing 1 asks you to take some time and read about the programme and its goals. 23 Things is a self-directed course that aims to expose you to a range of digital tools that could help you in your personal and professional development as a researcher, but also as an employable individual. The aim is for you to spend a little time each week, building up and expanding your skills. You can read more about this in the Overview. Each week, we’ll talk about one or more of the tools/tasks from our 23 Things programme. You may wish to take a look at the full programme so that you can plan ahead. We’ll also ask you to spend some time each week reflecting on that week’s activities, through the medium of a blog. We have provided some guidance on how you may wish to structure your writing in the Learning from 23 Things page.

Talk to your colleagues and find out who is also taking part; one of the biggest benefits of 23 Things is the community that it creates.

23 Things for Research is part of the provision offered by the Researcher Development Programme. It is designed to complement our existing programme of workshops, and assist you in developing the skills outlined in the Researcher Development Framework.

Although the course is self-directed, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. You’re always welcome to leave a comment here on the blog, but you can also email the team (rdp@surrey.ac.uk), tweet @RDP_Surrey with the hashtag #23ThingsSurrey, or leave a message on the Researcher Development Facebook page.

Pop back and check on the blog page occasionally to see if there are new comments from other bloggers. We’ll be covering Twitter later on in the programme, but if you feel comfortable with it now you may want to set up a saved search for #23ThingsSurrey or follow @RDP_Surrey

Throughout the programme, we’ll be exploring issues of publishing online. Blogs are key to 23 Things participation as you’ll be using them for your regular reflective posts on the tools you explore. Blogging is an increasingly common way to communicate ideas and information of all kinds, for lots of different audiences and purposes. A blog is a dynamic website which is periodically updated with new posts, arranged in reverse chronological order and which can also be categorised by theme. There might be a single author, or multiple contributors. Posts can be text, or other media such as links, images, video or sound. Readers can interact with the author by posting comments. You can also use blog software to build a more traditional static website, if you wish.

Blogging is becoming an increasingly acceptable way of communicating research outside of academic papers, Blogs are certainly used extensively outside of academia to share information and promote all sorts of work. They are very useful for public engagement both inside and outside academia.

Setting up your own blog will help you to explore the potential value of blogs in and beyond academic life, as well as some of the non-traditional formats or types of information you might want to make available via this medium. Now it’s time to get one up and running. At the end of the programme, we’ll think about what you want to do with your blog next: keep it, change it or delete it.

Before you write your first post on 23 Things, you’ll need to decide on a blogging platform and set up the basics. If you already have a blog, you can skip straight to writing.

Platforms


You can use whichever blogging platform you like, though the most popular ones may prove easier to use and find support for. WordPress and Blogger are two of the most common (nearly 20% of the world’s websites run on WordPress); Tumblr is often used for primarily visual posts, but it can also work for text and is growing exponentially in popularity. If you wish to explore further, others such as MediumSquareSpace (paid), Ghost or Typepad (paid) can give you an idea of the full range of on offer (there are loads more and you should feel free to investigate – for instance, Mashable’s top 15 minimalist blogging platforms). Here are some rules of thumb about what service might be right for you:

  • If you just want an online scrapbook to post thoughts, ideas, quotes and multimedia then consider Tumblr. It also suits if your blog is going to be more personal than professional – though it’s worth pointing out that the two categories can sometimes get blurred.
  • If you want to disseminate your research, connect with researchers internationally or raise your profile then consider WordPress or Blogger.
  • If you want to set up a collaborative writing project then consider WordPress. Though the amount of functionality can be confusing at first, it has very powerful tools to facilitate multi-author projects and extend the functionality by moving it to a private hosting service.

There are pros and cons to each, but we’re going to focus on WordPress as it’s one of the most commonly used platforms. Just as a warning – WordPress reserves the right to put ads on free accounts that hit a particular popularity threshold. If you’d like advice about setting up on one of the others feel free to google it or ask the community.

Getting started with WordPress


The Cambridge Judge Business School has provided a great step-by-step intro to setting up your blog, which is worth a look. You need to start at https://wordpress.com/ (not wordpress.org – that’s something different!). You’ll be asked to input a blog address, so you’ll need to think of an address and a username. You could choose to blog anonymously, with an address and username which isn’t obviously you, or you might feel that you want an identifiable presence online, in which case some version of your name might be appropriate. Fill in the address and click ‘Create website’.

You’ll be asked to enter a username, email and password. Choose the free option, then click ‘Create blog’. You can now update the title, choose a theme and change your profile! For a bit more information about how to navigate around your dashboard and update your details, try this ‘next steps’ guide. See the information at http://learn.wordpress.com/get-configured/ for more ideas.

Writing your first 23 Things blog post

For your first 23 Things blog post, we’d like you to write a short piece about your experiences with social media and what you hope to get out of the 23 Things for Research programme. If you’re new to social media, do you have any ideas about how it might help or affect your work? If you’re using it already, what do you use? What are you hoping to explore?

Note: Please ‘tag’ or ‘label’ this post ‘Thing 1′ so that others can easily follow your progress and find specific posts. For each post you make in the 23 Things programme, please make sure to label or tag it ‘Thing X’ for the number of the Thing it relates to. You’re welcome to add other tags if you would like to. If you’d like guidance on tags and labels, there are instructions online for Blogger or WordPress. If you are using another service, have a quick Google or feel free to ask the community.

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